Anyway, anyway, anyway...James was really cranky the week before we left Pomona. He had a bad cold and didn’t feel well, so he got coddled with a lot of Crack. As he was watching Baby Van Gogh for the third time one day, he had a Helen Keller moment. “YEAH-YOA!” he yelled, as he bolted off his rocking horse. Spontaneous eruptions of “Yeah-yoa! Yeah-yoa! Yeah-yoaaaaa!!!” continued for the remainder of that week. We could be discussing doggies or fire trucks, but his invariable response was a loud “Yeah-yoa!” with a meaning look in his eyes.
I had no idea what he was talking about. But when we got back to Athens, I found out.
James had evidently received some kind of prophetic word.
“Yellow” is the color of hope.
My friend (and across-the-street neighbor) Betty Perno had her own “aha!” moment while in the shower one day. She was thinking about Katherine's trip home for Christmas, and how she could welcome her back. We live on a pretty little street named ‘Two Oaks’ after the massive, ancient trees that stand sentinel on either side of the road. Suddenly, the words of that song about the “old oak tree” came into her head.
The difference between Betty and me is that she acted on the inspiration. She called a few other neighbors to get the word out. Then she called the headmaster of Katherine’s alma mater. A friend who is a former mayor sent out emails to the Chamber of Commerce. Yellow (Yeah-yoa!) ribbons would be tied around trees to welcome Katherine back to her hometown and remind her that she has not been forgotten.
My middle child let the surprise slip out. I thought it was an incredible idea. But by the evening of December 23, I saw only two ribbons as I drove through the neighborhood. “Everyone’s too busy with Christmas,” I thought sympathetically. (Sometimes ‘just one more thing’ can drive you over the edge at Christmastime.)
But when I made a Walmart run on Christmas Eve, there were yellow ribbons all over the place, mingling with red Christmas bows. They were on mailboxes, sign posts, and random trees throughout the neighborhood. There were signs at the entrance and in people’s yards welcoming Katherine home. Katherine’s brave (or crazy?) life-long friend, Sally, even talked her brother and father into helping her put a banner up on the interstate from Atlanta!
Although there was a little miscommunication about the time, a wonderful group of neighbors still braved the cold drizzle to wait at the neighborhood's entrance for Katherine’s arrival. She cried when she saw what love inspired them to do.
I really love my town sometimes.
In this past (mostly-dreary/drizzly) week, we’ve discovered yellow ribbons all over Athens, scattered like bright Easter eggs throughout the city. We’ve found them everywhere from quaint, old neighborhoods, to banks and businesses and churches, to the school Katherine attended for 14 years. It’s like getting little hugs every time you turn around...symbols of caring that whisper, “You are not alone.”
Emory nerd that I am, I had to investigate the symbolism and origin of the yellow ribbon thing.
There is not one definitive consensus on it's symbolic value. In the early 20th Century, it was associated with awaiting the return of a loved one, usually a soldier off at war. In the 70’s, a story of a prisoner seeking confirmation of his welcome home upon release became the ubiquitous song. In the 80’s, it became a symbol of support for the hostages in Iran.
I think all of these manifestations....soldier, prisoner, hostage...are appropriate in Katherine’s case.
She is in a war, fighting vicious battles for liberation every day. She is a prisoner of her own broken body. She is held hostage by her physical limitations. But the ribbons sprinkled through her native town like beautiful, big, yellow petals tell her that she isn’t fighting alone. The Resistance is with her, doing battle behind the scenes on her behalf with the power of their love and prayers.
The encyclopedia goes on to tell me that the 20th Century usages of the yellow ribbon symbol may have evolved from earlier traditions: “The song/poem "She wore a yellow ribbon" has appeared in various forms for at least four centuries. It is based upon the same general theme. A woman of destiny is under some sort of test or trial as she waits for her beloved to return. Will she be true to him? This seems to be the lingering question and the basis for a great unfolding drama.” (Wikipedia)
The answer is YES.
Katherine, a woman of extraordinary destiny, is staying true to her Beloved through the terrible, torturing tests and trials.
There is, at least, no 'lingering question' about that.
Those yellow ribbons of love and hope testify that we are all waiting with her until those trials are over.
It dawns on me that a hostage is usually freed by the payment of a ransom...and that one has already been paid.
Freedom is coming, as surely as the sun.
“Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress,
and he hears my voice.
He ransoms me unharmed from the battle waged against me,
even though many oppose me.” (Ps. 55:17-18)
“...and the ransomed of the LORD will return.
They will enter Zion with singing;
everlasting joy will crown their heads.
Gladness and joy will overtake them,
and sorrow and sighing will flee away.” (Is. 35:10)